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AHL Weekly Release: Phantoms flying at 5-0-0-0

WEEKLY RELEASE #2

phi_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass.
… The Philadelphia Phantoms have won two Calder Cups and four division championships and have topped the 100-point mark five times in 11 years. But they had never begun a season with five straight wins … until now.

Guided by head coach Craig Berube, the Phantoms are 5-0-0-0 after the second weekend of the 2007-08 regular season, bettering their 4-0-0 start to the 2001-02 season. They have outscored their opponents by a 19-8 margin, and have scored 12 power-play goals in five games, most in the league. All five of their victories have come against East Division opponents, including three vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

These Phantoms are, for the most part, a young group; their average age on opening night was 23 years, 8 months – sixth-youngest in the league – and eight AHL rookies have already suited up this year. But they have plenty of experience as well: of the 22 Phantoms to appear in a game so far this season, 11 saw NHL time in 2006-07, including 10 with the parent Philadelphia Flyers.

Right wing Stefan Ruzicka is Philadelphia’s top scorer to date with eight points, including two goals and an assist in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Penguins. The 22-year-old native of Slovakia, who played 40 NHL games with the Flyers last season, started strong in 2006-07 as well, and now has 17 points in nine October games over the last two campaigns. Jonathan Matsumoto, a rookie out of Bowling Green State University, has at least one point in all five games, totaling three goals and four assists. Jared Ross didn’t have a single multiple-assist game all last year; he recorded two helpers on Oct. 7 and three more on Oct. 14. And Darren Reid, who finished last season with 14 goals in his last 29 games, has scored four times already this season, tied for the league lead.

Philadelphia’s veteran leadership comes from their captain, two-time Calder Cup champion Boyd Kane; defenseman Denis Gauthier, with 489 NHL games to his credit; and goaltender Brian Boucher, looking to resurrect his career after playing for four NHL clubs over the last two seasons. Boucher, a member of the Phantoms’ championship team from 1998, has stopped 118 of 124 shots (1.50, .952) in winning his first four starts of the year.

The Phantoms have a light schedule this week, with one game on tap: a home face-off with the Providence Bruins on Saturday night. The game comes a day after the 40th anniversary of the grand opening of the Wachovia Spectrum on Oct. 19, 1967, and the Phantoms will mark the occasion by wearing special throwback Flyers jerseys against the Bruins.

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GOALIES GAIN EARLY EDGE IN PENALTY SHOTS

The first four penalty shots of the 2007-08 season all took place on Saturday night, and goaltenders got the upper hand on all four. Philadelphia’s Brian Boucher denied Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Tyler Kennedy, Milwaukee’s Pekka Rinne stopped Chicago’s Alexandre Giroux, and Rochester’s David Shantz turned back both Petteri Nokelainen and T.J. Trevelyan of Providence.

Shantz becomes just the second AHL goaltender since official records began in 1979 to stop two penalty shots in one game. Current New York Islanders netminder Wade Dubielewicz achieved the feat for Bridgeport vs. Hershey on Dec. 10, 2005.

Shooters were successful on 15 of 54 penalty shots last season (27.8 percent).

RAZOR SHARP IN RETURN

Two-time AHL All-Star Ray Emery stopped 80 of 86 shots during his two-game conditioning stint in Binghamton over the weekend as he prepared to return to the NHL following offseason wrist surgery.

Emery, who backstopped Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, made 46 saves in the B-Senators’ 5-2 win over Hershey on Saturday night.

PRICE, ELLIOTT WIN NHL DEBUTS

With Emery on the mend, Brian Elliott spent the first two weeks of the season in the NHL and earned a victory in his debut with Ottawa. Elliott, who made his pro debut with Binghamton last season after completing his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin, stopped 27 shots in the Senators’ 3-1 win over Atlanta on Oct. 10.

That same night, Carey Price made his much-anticipated NHL debut with Montreal and got the win in a 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh. The MVP of the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs with Hamilton, Price debuted 22 years to the day after Patrick Roy made his first start with the Habs – also in Pittsburgh.

ETC.

Reigning AHL MVP Darren Haydar, on recall from the Chicago Wolves, scored his first career NHL goal off Martin Brodeur in Atlanta’s 6-5 loss to New Jersey on Saturday night… Derick Brassard, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, has points in each of his first four professional games for Syracuse (3g, 4a)… Brassard was one of eight former first-round draft picks in the lineups for the Crunch’s game vs. Hartford on Saturday (Kris Beech, Adam Munro, Al Montoya, Hugh Jessiman, Alex Bourret, Lauri Korpikoski, Darius Kasparaitis)… Gabe Gauthier, Matt Moulson and rookie Teddy Purcell each recorded five points in two games for Manchester last week… Defenseman Erik Reitz has had a hand in five of Houston’s six goals this season (1g, 4a)… Derrick Walser recorded four points (1g, 3a) during the second period of Toronto’s 6-2 win over Lake Erie on Friday… Norfolk’s Ryan Munce earned his first career AHL victory on Saturday, stopping 36 of 37 shots and all five shootout attempts in a 2-1 win at Albany… Wade Flaherty made 34 saves in Rockford’s 7-3 win over Iowa on Saturday, his 10th consecutive regular-season victory since Dec. 31, 2006… Peoria (23-for-23) and Toronto (15-for-15) are both perfect on the penalty kill so far this year, and both have also scored a shorthanded goal… Grand Rapids is 3-0-0-0 for the third time in the last four seasons… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s loss to Philadelphia on Sunday drops the Penguins (2-3-0-0) below .500 for the first time since Oct. 30, 2004.